Perhaps only Reader's Digest has been associated with a greater array of magazines than has SI publisher David Long. In fact, as he recites his curriculum vitae, the 47-year-old Long sounds as if he is reading straight from the contents page of the venerable Digest.
"From the National Observer...to American Home...to Better Homes & Gardens...to Family Weekly...to Sports Illustrated...to Life...to People...to Sports Illustrated...."
But despite his association with such a diversity of magazines, Long, who had risen from sales rep to national sales manager at SI between 1978 and '87, felt like he was coming home when he was named publisher here last September. "I love sports," says Long, a nine-handicap golfer. "And what SPORTS ILLUSTRATED does is tell the stories of sports. It also just so happens that the consumers of this magazine are deeply in love with it too. What more attractive environment could there possibly be in which to sell your product?"
As publisher, Long's primary responsibility is overseeing our ad sales operation, a task he seems to have been born to. "My dad was a salesman for Milprint Packaging in Chicago," says Long, "and my granddad was the ad director for Chicago's Herald-American newspaper. I went from being a tank commander in the Army straight to selling ads at the National Observer. I've been at this for close to 25 years."
And because golf is as intrinsic to ad sales as is the handshake, Long has been able to enhance his personal golf digest along the way. "I've been lucky enough to play some of the loveliest courses in the world—Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Augusta National, St. Andrews," he says.
"Long on the tee is long off the tee," laments TIME publisher Jack Haire, who frequently has been the payer in golf-course wagers with Long. "He's a very, very good nine handicap. Maybe the world's best."
Long's colleagues, including his wife, Lisa Valk Long, president of TIME, say the same thing about his prowess as a salesman. All agree that he is extremely attentive to the clients' needs and is someone the clients love having take care of them.
But several years ago it was Long who had to be taken care of. In 1984, while being treated for a kidney stone, Long, then SI's regional sales director in Chicago, suffered an allergic reaction to an iodine injection and lapsed into anaphylactic shock. He lay in a coma for a month. "And yes, I was literally declared dead," he says. "I even had one of those near-death experiences where you journey outside of your body."
Talk about a traveling salesman.
And how did he ever regain consciousness?
Did the salesman make a deal with the devil?
"Of course I'd never do business with the Prince of Darkness," he says. "Then again, if he wanted to talk four-color, full-page bleed...."
Long is proof that you can, indeed, go home again.